Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.
The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.
Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.
The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.
Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.
Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.
Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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Radiomir Firenze 3 Days Acciaio - 47mmWorld Tempus (press release), January 29th
The new Radiomir Firenze houses a hand-wound mechanical, P.3000 calibre, executed entirely by Panerai and visible through the sapphire case-back. Two mainspring barrels, connected in series, provide 3 days of power and the balance wheel oscillates at ...Read more
Panerai Makes $19500 Watch From a New Carbon-Fiber CompositeBloomberg, January 27th
The last few years Panerai has been pushing hard to put in-house movements into more and more of its watches. The watch we have here is indeed powered by Panerai mechanics, but it's what's on the outside that's new and exciting. The PAM 616's ...Read more
The “Panerai Only” sale tests buyer interestWorld Tempus (press release), January 26th
On December 8, Artcurial auctioned off some 69 lots in a sale titled “Panerai Only,” the first public auction dedicated to the Italian brand. The sale included timepieces made from the 1930s to the present day. Notwithstanding its commercial...Read more
Panerai Transat Classique - A long night!Sail World, January 23rd
Panerai Transat Classique - It was a long night. Amazon maintained the suspense right up to the last moment, revising her ETA by an hour... every hour! But above all it was a long night for those aboard because when she finally crossed the finishing...Read more
2015 Panerai Transat Classique - Altair, first arrived in MartiniqueSail World, January 21st
The big gaff schooner from 1931 has won, in real time, the Panerai Transat Classique 2015. A remarkable performance for Altair and her crew who gave it their all right up to the finishing line. And they had to, because the other contenders are pressing...Read more
SIHH 2015 – Panerai PAM 604 Radiomir Firenze 3 Days AcciaioPerpetuelle.com (blog), January 19th
Continuing now with another new model in the 2015 Panerai collection — the Radiomir Firenze 3 Days Acciaio, with a 47mm brushed steel case with engraving. Only 99 examples are being made, and each one is entirely decorated by the hand by expert ...Read more
Panerai Mare Nostrum Titanium PAM 603Perpetuelle.com (blog), January 19th
The movement is the hand-wound mechanical Panerai OP XXV calibre (55 hours power reserve, 18,000 vph, 12¾ lignes, Glucydur balance with Incabloc anti-shock device and Swan's neck regulator) Côtes de Genève decoration on the bridges, though not ...Read more
Carbon composite case…Perpetuelle.com (blog), January 19th
OK here we go now with the 2015 Panerai lineup. Some exciting pieces in here as usual. The Paneristi can (and will) debate the 2015 collection endlessly (some “love it” “so excited” vs. some “hate it” “so disappointed”, right?), though for me I'd say...Read more